Drip Irrigation, Planter Box Problems and Sunshades in the New Deck Container Garden

The deck container garden has done very well during it’s first month.  The container gardening drip irrigation system appears to be working without any problems or major leaks.  The planter boxes are holding up well.  The plants appear to be growing healthily with just enough water to each plant pot.  The heat hasn’t been bad enough to restart the problems from last year.  In fact, I’ve even avoided turning on the drop fertilization system thus far.

Container Gardening Tomato Plant with Drip Irrigation
Container Garden Tomato Plant in a Planter Box with Drip Irrigation

Managing water while container gardening can be a challenge.  I have a drip irrigation single emitter on the planter boxes with a single plant and double emitters on the plant box that has two plants.  I’ve been very careful to make sure that the emitter for each plant pot is well positioned and that there is plenty of dirt dammed up around the emitter to make sure that the little bit of water that is applied goes straight to the plant.

Planter Boxes Using Dual Drip System
Deck Container Planter Box Dual Drip System

My container garden pepper plants are a great example of a drip irrigation dual emitter situation.  The only other container gardening dual emitter setup is for the cucumbers.  I have noticed that the cucumbers, which are at the far end of the drip irrigation chain may potentially be receiving less water in their planter box than the strawberries and peppers plant pots which are further up the chain and thus closer to the actual hose bib.

Weeds in a Container Garden Plant Pot
Weeds in Deck Container Garden Plant Boxes

One of the drawbacks to using last year’s container garden dirt is that it has weeds in it.  I tried to avoid them as much as possible when getting the dirt in the first place but wound up with a few weeds that sprout in each planter box.  It’s not a big problem when container gardening but definitely something that needs doing at least weekly to prevent each plant pot from being over run with weeds.

Young Container Garden Tomato Bloom
Young Deck Container Garden Tomato Bloom in a Planter Box

I’m not sure when tomato plants are supposed to bloom or even what causes them to bloom or if they behave differently in a container garden.  Nevertheless, each of my three tomato plants will occasionally show a single bloom or a small stalk of blooms.  Since the plants are still young and have a lot of room in the plant pot, I make it a point to pinch them off whenever I find them.  I want the plants in each planter box dedicated to growing and strengthening rather than bearing fruit right now.

Container Gardening Planter Box Sunshade
Container Garden Planter Box Sunshade

Last year I had a big problem with the deck container garden over-heating due to what appeared to be heat reflected from the surface of the deck onto the dark blue sides of the planter boxes.  I didn’t realize that heat management would be such a challenge when container gardening.  I didn’t want to abandon the deck container garden nor did I want to invest in a total sunshade to cover every plant pot so I devised a simple sunshade cover that sits in front of three sides of each plant container.  It’s a simple construction and something that my youngest daughter and I made in about 20 minutes.  We used extra, leftover and scrap lumber to prototype a sunshade or shield.  Our goal was to have it be as light and cheap as possible.  I think we met that goal!

Sunshades for Planter Boxes in Deck Container Garden
Container Gardening with Sunshades for Planter Boxes

The wood I used has a weather proofed side and an untreated side so it looks nice from the front and is light in color to help reflect the heat away from each of the planter boxes that is bound to come later in the summer.  The only problem I’ve found thus far with this setup for container gardening is that the dogs and cats can easily tip them over if the get to messing around very close to the sunshades for each plant pot in the container garden.

Sunshade Installed for Planter Box
Sunshade Installed in Container Garden for Planter Boxes

The finished sunshade looks reasonable enough and hides the ugly planter boxes in the container garden from normal view.  It’s not horribly ugly, it was easy and inexpensive to build and I believe it will serve it’s purpose to reduce the heat in the planter boxes in the container garden.  The weather isn’t quite warm enough yet to actually test the soil temperature differences with a soil thermometer but should be by the next update.

Container Garden Plant Cages for Plant Pots
Deck Container Garden Cages for Plant Pots

My plants are beginning to get tall enough that I’ve brought the plant cages for the container garden I built last year back up onto the deck so that they will be ready to install on the planter boxes when the time is right.  There are a lot of unique challenges that have to be managed when container gardening!

Planter Box Cucumbers in a Container Garden
Container Garden Cucumbers in a Planter Box

My container garden cucumbers are doing well and starting to develop “real” leaves.  I only planted 6 seeds in each of two mounds in the planter box and it appears that all except one have sprouted.

Tomato Outgrowing a Container Garden Plant Pot
Deck Container Gardening Tomato Outgrowing Planter Boxes

My tomato plants are going gang busters.  Container gardening tomatoes is quite an adventure, especially when you use a wide variety of varieties!  This one is going to need a plant cage around ti’s planter box pretty soon so that it does not outgrow the container garden.

Container Garden Tomato in Failing Planter Boxes
Deck Container Garden Tomato in Failing Planter Boxes

This is my container garden specific tomato plant and the difference between it and the two other non-patio varieties is striking.  This plant , specifically for patio or container gardening, invests the majority of its effort in developing leaves where the other plants invest heavily in growing stalks.  It also appears to have more than enough room for roots in the planter box.

Container Gardening Tomato Plants
Container Garden Tomato Plant in a Planter Box

My youngest’s yellow tomatoes are doing very well.  They are not specifically designed for container gardening in a planter box but she wanted them and she was with me when we were selecting the plants.

Container Garden Peppers in a Plant Pot
Container Gardening Peppers in a Plant Pot

My two container garden pepper plants are doing nicely.  I’m a bit concerned at their apparent slower growth rate but we still have a long growing season in front of us.  The water also appears to distribute very well in the planter box.

Strawberries in a Deck Container Garden
Container Gardening Strawberries

Container gardening strawberry plants continues to be a challenge.  My youngest’s strawberry plant still lags behind all of the other plants. It just looks like it is never going to grow big enough to fill the planter box. We failed miserably with strawberries in the container garden last year and the outlook for this year does not currently hold a lot of promise.


Refreshing the Planter Boxes for Starting a Deck Garden

Spring time has arrived in Central Texas and it’s time to take all the lessons I learned from last year’s deck container gardening and apply them to a new round of education, fun and starting a deck garden.  I had some success last year and am excited to get started again and take advantage of everything I’ve learned as well as try a few new things for my container garden on the deck.



What I Learned Starting a Deck Garden

I’ve summarized what I’ve learned starting a container vegetable garden but here are my key learning’s from last year:

My goals for this season are

  • is to determine the ideal plant/water/temperature ratios for my deck garden
  • teach my daughters the benefits of having a regular container gardening project that produces real results
  • have fun, learn and enjoy fresh food from my deck container garden

The deck garden sat idle through the winter season so the first step in starting a deck garden is do do a quick inventory of what we have and what needs to be done to restart our container gardening.


Drip Irrigation for Container Plants

Faulty Container Gardening Backflow Preventer
Faulty Planter Box Backflow Preventer


I use a drip irrigation system to provide a regular a measured amount of drip irrigation for container plants to each planter box.  I tested the drip irrigation system and everything appeared to work fine except for a leaky backflow preventer.  I replaced it for about $4 and tightened all of the connections before starting a deck garden.










Potting Soil for Container Garden

Planter Boxes for Starting a Deck Garden from Last Year
Planter Boxes from Container Gardening from Last Year


Container gardening can be very tough on soil and planter boxes.  The soil in each of the planter boxes has become dry and hard and will need to be supplemented with some new potting soil for my container garden.  This is the first step in starting a deck garden.  Some of this is due to the very dry winter we’ve had and part of it due to the very high temperatures from last year.  I’m going to be much more rigorous measuring soil temperature in my deck garden with a soil thermometer this year.






Container Gardening on a Deck


Deck Gardening Planter Box Before Adding Dirt
Deck Garden Planter Box Before Adding Dirt


The planter boxes from last year’s container gardening on a deck remain in relatively good shape but definitely show some wear and tear.  They will probably last at least one more year but will need to be replaced after that if they continue to deteriorate and before I consider another year of starting a deck garden.










Potting Soil for Container Garden

Fresh Dirt for Deck Gardening
Fresh Dirt for Planter Boxes


I have some great potting soil for my container garden left over from last year’s container gardening when I filled the planter boxes but it is covered over with grass.  If you order potting soil in bulk, you can get it cheaper and it will always be ready when you are ready for starting a deck garden.







Planter Boxes for Starting a Deck Garden

Freshly Filled Deck Garden Planter Box
Freshly Filled Container Gardening Planter Boxes


Each planter box for starting a deck garden is about 18 gallons and weighs approximately 125 pounds when completely filled with dirt.  I filled two planter boxes with new, fresh soil and lugged them to the top of the stairs.  It was tough but sometimes, starting a deck garden can be a challenge.  I then distributed the new soil across the 6 planter boxes to top them off.





Full Sun Container Gardens

Deck Garden Planter Boxes with Fresh Dirt for the Container Garden
Planter Boxes for Deck Garden with Fresh Dirt for the Container Garden


I filled the planter boxes for the full sun container gardens fuller with soil this year than I did last year.  Underneath the soil in each container is a set of empty plastic bottle as a space filler.  I have no idea about the condition of those empty bottles or what the temperature may have done to break them down.  Last year, I measured the temperature with a soil thermometer.  This year, part of my plan in starting a deck garden is to monitor the soil temperature much more closely.










Photos of Container Gardens

Planter Boxes in Container Gardening Ready to Plant
Deck Garden Planter Boxes Ready to Plant


The planter boxes for starting a deck garden are filled and ready for planting.  This year, I’m planting

  • one planter box of cucumbers
  • three containers of tomatoes
  • one planter box of peppers
  • one container of strawberries

I’m a big believer of taking a lot of photos of container gardens – from starting a deck garden to the very end – to help me document my progress and learn from my mistakes.






Cucumbers in a Container Garden on Deck

Cucumbers in Deck Garden Planter Box
Cucumbers in Container Gardening Planter Boxes


Last year, I planted two types of cucumbers in the container garden on my deck and they did fairly well until the heat got them.  My mistake when starting a deck garden was that I over planted in two dense rows, one of each type.  This year I’m still planting two types – Sugar Crunch and Early Pride – but I’m planting them in two small mounds centered in the planter box with only 6 seeds in each mound.





Partial Sun Container Garden Tomatoes

Container Gardening Juliet Tomato
Planter Box Juliet Tomato


In my partial sun container garden tomato planter boxes last year, I planted four tomato plants and a pepper plant in each planter box.  The result was that the tomato plants tended to grow tall and stringy.  This year in starting a deck garden, I’m only planting a single tomato plant in each planter box.  I very much like the “grape” style tomatoes and the Juliet variety is well suited to this area.





Full Sun Container Garden Tomatoes

Patio Tomatoes for Container Gardening
Patio Tomatoes in Planter Box for Container Gardening


How could you have a deck garden without having a Patio variety tomato plant?  These prefer a full sun container garden so we’ll make sure they are placed on the end of the line.  Again, only one plant per planter box.  Last year, when starting a deck garden, I planted as many as four plants in a planter box and they were too over crowded.








 Pear Tomatoes in Container Garden on a Deck

Yellow Pear Tomato in Deck Garden Planter Boxes
Yellow Pear Tomato in Container Gardening Planter Box


My youngest daughter loves little yellow tomatoes in the container garden on the deck and she had the advantage of going with me when I purchased the plants.  So, she selected the Yellow Pear variety for this planter box.







Chili Peppers in a Full Sun Container Garden

Jalapeno Pepper in Container Gardening
Jalapeno Pepper in Planter Box


I love fresh Pico de Gallo – a typically Mexican relish with tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro.  It’s not salsa, which i usually chopped very fine and even cooked sometimes.  Pico de Gallo (chicken scratch) is a much coarser relish and made/served fresh.  I want to be able to make my own so I considered planting everything I needed to make it when starting a deck garden.  When I thought about it, though, I decided not to plant onions because they are soil depth intensive and I chose not to plant cilantro because it is so easily available at the store.  Neither of those appeared to be well suited for a full sun container garden.  So, I’ve only planted peppers and tomatoes.  This is a mild jalapeno variety.  Pepper plants don’t grow very large so I elected to plant two pepper plants in this planter box.


Cowhorn Peppers

Cowbell Pepper in Planter Boxes
Cowbell Pepper for Deck Garden


I’m not really sure about this pepper but the description intrigued me and I didn’t want two jalapeno plants and I wanted to try this one more than I wanted to grow my own serrano peppers.  This is a cowhorn pepper.






Drip Irrigation for Strawberry Plants

Planter Boxes Strawberry
Container Gardening Using Planter Box Strawberry


I’m not a big strawberry fan.  I like them but it seems silly to grow them when they are so easily available at the store.  They also seem to require enormous amounts of drip irrigation for container plants and that makes it tough to manage when you are starting a deck garden.  That said, my youngest daughter wanted one for “her” container gardening and she was with me when we bought the plants so she got what she wanted!






Drip Irrigation for Container Plants

Planter Box Drip Irrigation Watering Timer
Deck Garden Drip Irrigation Watering Timer


I set the drip irrigation system watering timer for twice daily, 6AM and 6PM for five minutes.  Each plant in the deck garden has a 1 GPH emitter.  Some planter boxes have two plants so they have two emitters.  I have not utilized any fertilizer at this point and I have not measured the soil temperature with a soil thermometer yet.





Starting a deck garden is fun but it can be a lot of work and hopefully, it will pay off with lots of learning, enjoyment and delicious vegetables.